The original Mini was designed for the British Motor Company by Alec Issigonis. It first appeared in 1959 and was revolutionary; small, fun and great to drive. Space was created by fitting the engine sideways and driving the front wheels. This influenced the design countless cars thereafter. The excellent driving qualities of the Mini encouraged engineer and Formula One designer John Cooper to develop a sporty model with a larger engine and better brakes. The first commercially produced Mini Cooper was introduced in 1961 and soon these cars were winning races, beating much larger and more powerful cars. Various models of the MIni Cooper S won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967, but three Minis occupying the first three places were disqualified in 1966, on a technicality involving the headlights.
The toy car shown here carries logos for the Monte Carlo Rally, but, apart from having no rear seats, shows little sign of having been modified for the rally. On the other hand the Corgi and Oxford models illustrated below have additional lights and, in the case of the 1967 winning car, a roof rack for spare tyres. The ‘J’ registration plate on the featured toy dates from August 1970 to July 1971 well after the dominance of the Mini teams. This suggests that, if the model is of an actual entrant to the rally, it was a fun entrant.
The Monte Carlo Rally is organised each year by the Automobile Club de Monaco. The rally was introduced as long ago as 1911 by Prince Albert, to demonstrate improvements and innovations in motoring, and to promote Monaco as a tourist resort. The rally now takes place along the French Riviera, but for many years started in different countries.
Production of the original Mini continued with improvements until the year 2000. BMW acquired the rights to the Mini brand in 1994 and started production of a larger new version in Oxford in 2001. There is now an electric model.